Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Querido Nelson, Welcome Home – Bearing Shades of Krol and Bevy, Cleveland Returns to Philadelphia

Now 212 years into our life as a local church, God's People here in Philadelphia came to accrue an odd distinction in American Catholicism... well, one among others: given the insularity of this place, we've become the last major Stateside diocese that only ever had white bishops....

That is, until now – and the streak ends with a memorable splash onto the Chair of St John Neumann.

Per three Whispers ops, Pope Francis is set to name Nelson Perez – the 58 year-old son of Cuban exiles, until now the bishop of Cleveland, ordained a priest of Philadelphia in 1989 – as his adopted home's 10th Archbishop on Thursday, 23 January.

The move comes four months after the 75th birthday of Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap., who widely aired his wish to be retired quickly after 32 years as an active prelate, the last eight of them embroiled in attempting to rescue the 1.1 million-member Philly fold from a financial and managerial free-fall – an ongoing plate which now includes an unprecedented Federal investigation into clergy sex-abuse across the entire province (i.e. state) his successor will inherit.

And as for the guy this scribe has only ever called "Nelson" – a fellow son of my own father in all this – at first blush, this feels like the best of both worlds: even for his Miami birth and North Jersey boyhood, a figure "native" enough to know and be able to engage the ironclad local culture... yet still sufficiently "outside" as to challenge the intransigence of the same.

With his appointment, Perez is set to become the US' third Hispanic archbishop – an unprecedented number, alongside the metropolitans of San Antonio and Los Angeles, the latter now the first Latin President of the nation's bishops. At the same time, it is significant that Nelson would be the nation's first Latin metropolitan outside of a predominantly Hispanic outpost.

More to come – but for now, as a Philadelphian, the moment still has to sink in.

Above all, again, let us pray in the ways these streets have taught our people...

...y querido hermano – ahora nuestro Pastor – in the words of our history, "receive the certificate of the Cross you will soon carry": Nelson, here's your mandate.